France will take legal action against Alphabet Inc’s Google and Apple Inc for ‘abusive commercial practices’, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Wednesday, accusing them of taking advantage of French developers.
“I learned that when developers develop their applications, and sell to Google and Apple, their prices are imposed, Google and Apple take all their data, Google and Apple can unilaterally rewrite their contracts,” Le Maire said on RTL radio. “All that is unacceptable and it’s not the economy that we want. They can’t treat our startups and developers the way they do.” Le Maire said the fines could be in the ‘million of euros.’
Representatives for Apple and Google couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Le Maire’s office said an investigation by the ministry’s fraud office determined that between 2015 and 2017 there were ‘significant imbalances’ in the relationship between the two companies and developers who sold via their application stores. The findings of a similar probe into Amazon.com Inc last year are being reviewed by a tribunal, his office said. Le Parisien reported last December that the Finance Ministry is seeking to fine Amazon 10 million euros ($12.4 billion).
France has had a complicated relationship with Internet giants, on the one hand courting them to set up operations in the country and on the other hand leading efforts at the European Union level to force them to pay more taxes in the countries where they operate, rather than in low-tax countries such as Ireland and Luxembourg where they’ve based their European subsidiaries.
Google, Amazon and Facebook have consistently praised France for its talent pool of engineers and researchers over the past years. They’ve cited the quality of candidates as the main reason for setting up labs in and around Paris on themes from artificial intelligence to delivery drones. France has been promoting its startups to grab part of the spotlight on the global tech scene. While the country hasn’t produced technology giants, it has had smaller successes like Criteo, Blablacar, and Sigfox.